Batman Beyond: Neo-Gothic got off to a rocky start with an opening issue that fell victim to some of the previous series’ worse tendencies. Now, as Terry and Kyle head deeper underground, the story becomes more personal, and thankfully it’s an approach from which the story benefits greatly. The attempts at weighty deep commentary are still there, but they take up far less of the focus. What results is a comic whose character moments and action can carry the narrative.
Unfortunately, the story once again gets off on the wrong foot by focusing on its overly flowery narration. This time it’s Lumos pontificating about how his development project will bring Gotham out of the shadows and into the light. Outside of the poetic meaning, it not quite clear why he would be hearkening back to a better time in the past, given that Gotham has been terrible for as long as anyone there could remember if not more so. There seems to be an attempt to inject some level of moral ambiguity, especially towards the end where he criticizes Boonma for standing in the way of new housing, but is totally undercut by having him constantly grinning maniacally while he gloats. It’s impossible to believe for a second he doesn’t have a comically evil ulterior motive.
The grandiosity and self-importance is at least fitting to the character this time around, what with Lumos’ astronomical opinion of himself. The same cannot be said for the format. I mentioned this last time but it still holds true here: the gutter text was an especially effective technique in Batman Beyond: Neo-Year because it conveyed how omnipresent yet hidden the Gotham AI was. Without that context, it’s robbed of its meaning and just becomes a neat looking style that at worst actively works against the intended visual storytelling.
Where the housing development plotline shines is when it’s made more personal. The smaller moments with those affected is more real than any amount of characters standing and giving speeches about how meaningful their stances are. Real life developers may not be as (openly) evil as Lumos, but plenty of us know someone whose life has been horribly affected by powerful people outside of their control. The way it’s delivered is still fairly ham-fisted, but when graded on the curve of what we’ve come to expect from this series, it’s a marked improvement.
It’s that personal connection that brings out the best of Terry and Kyle’s story as well. More than just a mission to find a group of missing kids, Terry emphasizes the importance of the descent as it relates to Bruce’s legacy. It turns the entire thing into a personal journey for him, which is the most compelling angle you can take with this sort of thing. Even the fight with Killer Croc, now a giant monster, serves a double meaning with him as the metaphorical and literal guardian to finding out more about the past.
The fight itself is also very impressively drawn by Max Dunbar. You really appreciate the colossal size of him as Terry struggles to stay alive. It feels like a kaiju battle more than anything else, and there’s an ominous terror when its seems as though it’s not even possible to fit his entire frame in a single panel. I’m not usually a fan of Killer Croc as a monster, but with some hasty justification about splicing, it’s enough to leave a memorable action sequence.
The way that sequence ends is with Kyle Selina the Catboi’s magic fire powers. This character continues to hang like an albatross around the series’ neck. There may be less discussion about how the cat people groom themselves, but having him suddenly be able to cast spells like a wizard only makes him stick out even more. He rarely feels like a natural part of the story, but rather an author’s pet (no pun intended) who needs to be highlighted wherever possible. Giving Terry a guide into the underworld is a good idea, just not like this.
- Max Dunbar’s impressive art makes for some spectacular fights
- You’ve been wanting more personal moments in the story
- Magical cat boys are what you want out of a Batman comic
Batman Beyond: Neo-Gothic #2 manages to pivot towards an approach to its story that resonates on a personal level. Still too much time is given to pontificating monologues, but when it’s able to let the characters be characters, it succeeds. Its intriguing journey and exciting action sequences are only somewhat dampened by an ever more ill-suited anthropomorphic sidekick.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman-News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.